Cham Muslims of Thailand: a haven of security in Mainland Southeast Asia

Raymond Scupin

s200_raymond.scupinNot long ago this journal published a moving account of the forgotten Muslims of
Kampuchea and Vietnam by Seddik Taouti1. In Kampuchea Taouti estimates that approximately seventy percent of the Muslim population was exterminated by the Khmer Rouge led by the Pol Pot regime. The author cites the Ministry of Planning in Kampuchea as recording a Muslim population of 190,000 surviving Muslims from a
total population of 800,000. The author visited areas such as Kompong Cham in which
66,793 Muslims reside. Although during the Pol Pot regime Taouti states that the
majority of Muslims were exterminated because they were of the Islamic faith, he
suggests that presently (in 1982) the Muslims appeared to live in harmony with their
Buddhist neighbours in Kampuchea. In a thorough essay on the genocidal policies carried out against Cham Muslims Ben Kiernan relies upon both Kampuchean and Vietnamese documents and eyewitness accounts to estimate that approximately 90,000 Cham Muslims were executed.2 Kiernan concludes that Pol Pot’s regime tried not only to destroy the Islamic tradition,
but to systematically exterminate the Cham Muslim community in Kampuchea. He
states that about fifty percent of the Cham Muslims were killed in this genocidal
massacre. The Chams, along with other minorities such as the Chinese and Vietnamese in Kampuchea were viewed as a threat to the racist and nationalistic policies of Pol Pot. In particular, the Cham Muslims had openly carried out demonstrations against the Khmer Rouge and Communist suppression of their religious beliefs in surrounding communities. These demonstrations were used by Pol Pot as an excuse to carry out their executions. Anyone interested in a thorough account of what has happened to the Cham Muslims of Kampuchea should consult Kiernan’s essay which has excellent documentation and indepth examples.

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